United provided the Old Trafford supporters with the perfect present in the last home game before Christmas, answering the critics with a 4-1 victory over Wolves that cuts the gap at the top to two points, with leaders City in action at Chelsea on Monday night.
The manager stressed football is all about how you respond to setbacks and, after the Champions League exit in midweek, this was a dominant display from start to finish. Nani scored twice for the first time in the league and Wayne Rooney ended a run of eight games without a goal with a brace. Steven Fletcher's header at the start of the second half could have set the alarm bells ringing but the Reds moved up another gear again, in probably the most exciting performance since the win over Chelsea.
As expected, Sir Alex replaced injured skipper Nemanja Vidic with Jonny Evans while Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck also started and Michael Carrick returned following his European ban. The visitors mustered an attempt within 20 seconds as in-form Steven Fletcher lashed wide with his left foot. But it proved to be a rare raid from Mick McCarthy's team as the champions took complete control.
Encouragingly, both wingers, Valencia and Nani, showed a willingness to take their markers on and a cross from the Ecuador international was headed just over the top by a diving Carrick. Wayne Hennessey was forced to make a couple of saves to deny Rooney, the first of which was comfortable, but the second was an excellent stop with an outstretched right leg after the Reds' No10 latched onto a measured pass by Carrick.
Within a minute, the pressure told as Nani controlled a pass by Valencia and moved menacingly towards the centre of the field. With the crowd urging the exciting Portuguese talent to shoot, he obliged by arrowing a drive past Hennessey for the opener. The confidence flooded back into